4 Ways to Grow a Twitter Following That Matters : Social Media Examiner

social media how toIs Twitter working for your business?

Are you looking to grow a larger and more relevant Twitter following?

This article will show you four actionable steps you can take to improve your Twitter experience.

Why Twitter Is Not Just a Numbers Game

Many brands, businesses and marketers have already discovered how powerful Twitter is for finding and engaging their audience.

Its low cost, immediacy and viral nature make it a favorite tool for everyone from news organizations to celebrities to small businesses.

Yet when marketers jump on Twitter for the first time, they wonder why they don’t get an overwhelming response to their initial tweet. Soon they learn that they must develop a following.

They see others with followings of 500, 5,000 or 50,000 and they want some of that. So they start to Google “how to get more followers on Twitter” or falling for tweets like this one:

twitter team follow back

If it sounds too good to be true…

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too difficult to build a following on Twitter if you’re willing to partake in some shady, bad-karma tactics—from following and unfollowing people to creating hundreds of bogus accounts that follow you and retweet everything you say to buying followers on the black market.

But few if any of those followers will provide you any value for the time you put into Twitter.

So I’m also here to tell you that it’s not how many followers you have, but how many relevant followers you have. Having 20,000 followers who don’t respond to anything you share is equivalent to shouting from the top of the Empire State Building and claiming all of New York City as your audience.

Yes: more engaged followers are better than fewer engaged followers. So, let’s focus on getting more engaged followers.

Building a relevant Twitter following comes down to four core concepts:

  • Find and follow relevant people.
  • Tweet content that will be interesting to your target audience.
  • Engage with your audience.
  • Promote your Twitter account through other channels.

With that framework in place, here are some tips, tools and tactics to attract relevant followers on Twitter.

#1: Find and Follow Relevant People

Your audience is out there… Now, how to find them?

Start with a strong profile.

Because most people will check out your profile before following you, it’s important to put your house in order and present yourself in the most engaging way possible.

This includes:

  • Profile photo: Make sure you’re using a photo of your face for your personal account or a logo for your business account. Research has shown that people trust faces more that they’ve seen multiple times, which is why a photo of your smiling face works best.
  • Detailed bio: You’ve got 160 characters, so get creative! Let people know why they should be following you.
  • Location: Because so much of business is local these days, make sure you include your location as appropriate. It can be the make or break for follows.
    twitter bios

    Strong profiles increase your followers. Blue hair doesn't hurt.

Discover new people with third-party tools.

One of the first places to start your search for relevant people is at one of the many Twitter directories out there.

In a discussion around Twitter tools in Social Media Examiner’s Small Business Networking Club, everyone seemed to have a favorite tool or tip.

Social media marketer Paul Wylie recommends Twellow (for the clean interface) and WeFollow (for finding influencers). You can search by industry, location or keyword for starters.


WeFollow has many categories. Thus, whether you're targeting personal trainers or WordPress trainers, you'll find them here.

Karen James, a social media coach from the UK, likes Tweepi to check out people before she follows them. Karen Black, a digital marketer also from the UK, uses ManageFlitter to do bio searches, as well as keep an eye on her followers.

Use these tools to search for your own industry and the industries of your ideal customers.

Leverage other people’s Twitter lists.

A great source for new people to connect with is other people’s curated Twitter lists.

mashable pr

Whatever your interests are, you can find well-curated lists and subscribe to them.

Twitter users often create lists or subscribe to other people’s lists to improve their
signal-to-noise ratio. As long as people make their lists public, you are free to subscribe to them, quickly getting access to dozens or hundreds of vetted Twitter users.

bald guys rock

Some lists are more serious than others.

Use Twitter’s search functionality.

You can use Twitter’s search functionality to find relevant people and engage with them.

For example, let’s say you had a product or service for NASCAR fans. Start by doing a search on #nascar within Twitter.

twitter nascar

Searching on #nascar will help you find passionate NASCAR fans whom you can then follow.

You could then join the conversation by @ (mentioning) them, answering their questions and otherwise engaging them.

If your business is more local, like a restaurant, you can find out who’s hungry and in driving distance.

twitter hungry

Filter your search by geography to find local people on Twitter to follow.

You could then reach out to those starving denizens on Twitter and offer them a discount or free drink if they come in now and mention “Twitter” as they place their order.

For more ideas on finding and following the right people, be sure to check out 7 Twitter Strategies for Growing a Great Following.

#2: Tweet Interesting Stuff

Easier said than done, right?

How do you find interesting content? Here are some ideas.

Use Google Alerts.

Set up Google Alerts (or a similar service) to get daily email updates about all of the things that are of interest to your audience—from “vegan recipes” to “grilling product reviews”—and share them through Twitter.

Share media.

Photos and videos are a proven way to engage your audience. Use photos to share your activity or events so your business will get click-throughs and comments.

A real estate agent might share a video walkthrough of a new house and ask “what do you think?” A retail shop may share photos of some new additions to their display window. A travel agent might share pictures from a beach vacation and ask, “Are you ready for your getaway?”

beadin path

Photos engage, especially if you tie them into a giveaway.

Talk to people, not at them.

Chances are, what is of interest to your audience is what they’re already talking about! Rather than trying to get the ball rolling, why not keep it rolling? See what your audience is talking about and engage them in that conversation. Ask questions, answer them, retweet and respond.

For more ideas on how to create more interesting tweets, check out 26 Twitter Tips for Enhancing Your Tweets.

#3: Engage

People on Twitter who don’t talk to other people are significantly less engaging and less likely to get followers.

Just because someone didn’t immediately follow you back doesn’t mean that you can’t engage them. Check out their conversations and see if you can jump in with relevant comments, or retweet some of their links.

Also, being part of conversations will get you in front of more people, increasing your chances of being followed.

Get involved with #chats.

Anyone can start a chat on Twitter by using a hashtag. You can find a long list of chats in this Google doc, along with days and times.

By joining the conversation at appropriate chats, you can quickly build your relevant followers… Assuming you have something valuable to add!

twitter chat

If you're looking to engage bloggers, you could chime in at the #BWEChat.

Schedule chats to reach a wider audience.

While there are many marketers who hate scheduled tweets—I’m looking at you, Unmarketer—many others embrace the tactic.

Using a tool like HootSuite or Buffer, you can schedule out a day’s, week’s or month’s worth of tweets. I would recommend you use a scheduling tool to supplement your regular tweets rather than replacing them.

If you’re going to schedule your tweets, try to be aware of when people respond to anything you share. When people respond to your tweets and you’re not there to respond to them, they’re less likely to engage you in the future.

#4: Promote Your Twitter Account Through Other Channels

Leverage the following you’ve built elsewhere by promoting your Twitter account.

Talk up Twitter at your website, blog and through email.

At flyte, we include our Twitter handles—with clickable links—next to all of our bios. We also include links to our Twitter handles from all appropriate blog posts.

crew page

People can follow you without having to leave the page they're on.

You can also include a “follow me on Twitter” call to action in your email signature file, email newsletter and all other correspondence.

Leverage your social media outposts.

Likewise, include links (and calls to action) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.

You may be tempted to sync all of your updates and tweets together using a tool like Ping.fm, HootSuite or TweetDeck. While there’s nothing wrong with this, use this technique judiciously.

Certain platforms may not be as “chatty” as Twitter, and if we’re already connected on LinkedIn and you’re syncing all of your tweets and LinkedIn updates, what’s the value of getting the same content on Twitter?

Get more visibility with a Paper.li newspaper.

Paper.li is a free service that allows you to create “newspapers” out of your Twitter feed (as well as some integration of Facebook and Google+).

Your daily paper.li can pull from the people you follow, your lists, or specific keywords or hashtags you include. Paper.li can also tweet out your daily paper, including which people contributed your “top stories.”

I’ve found that these tweets often get retweets from the people mentioned, and suddenly they’re sharing your content with their network, elevating your brand.

aoc daily

Promoting the people you're following encourages more follow-backs and engagement.

In this video you can see how to create your own paper.li daily:

One caveat: I no longer recommend including hashtags to pull in new people to your paper.li. Turns out some disreputable people might be using the same hashtags, populating your paper.li with spam.

So how do you bring in fresh content from new people to your paper.li daily? Here’s what I did: find people you respect and look at the targeted lists they’ve created. Then you can include their curated lists to help round out your paper.

twitter list on paperli

Using others' lists can greatly improve your own paper!

Now It’s Your Turn!

What do you think? What tips, tools or tactics have you been using to build your own relevant Twitter following? Share something in the comments box below and include your Twitter handle and you’ll be sure to pick up a few new followers!

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